By Ben Rosario
An opposition lawmaker, together with child and women welfare advocates, slammed Friday a move in the House of Representatives to rush the approval of a bill that proposes to lower criminal liability of juveniles as young as nine years old.
Gabriela Women Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas said the move, initiated by the Committee on Justice, show that the “devil really works harder.”
On the other hand, the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concern decried the measure as being motivated “at nothing but put the blame on children in conflict with the law and punish them behind bars.
Earlier, Mindoro Oriental Rep. Doy Leachon, chairman of the House Committee on Justice, has revealed that pending bills will be taken out from the legislative back burner.
In a press statement, Leachon said the committee will conduct on Monday a hearing for the “passage of the bills” lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 to nine years old. The bill is considered a “priority matter of legislation.”
“Big criminals, plunderers, and drug lords are given freedom by this administration while being hell-bent on lowering the age of criminal liability because of an ill-conceived logic that it will curb criminality and violence,” said Brosas.
She recalled that during hearings conducted on the bill, social workers, children rights advocates, psychologists and the academe registered their strong opposition to its enactment.
“The Committee, after months of deliberation and consultation with stakeholders and subject matter experts, is now finalizing the bill hoping that the matter will be passed into law before the end of the 17th Congress,” said Leachon.
There are at least four pending bills providing for the amendment of Republic Act No. 9334 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act by reducing criminal liability of juveniles from 15 years old to nine.
Principal authors of the bill include Reps. Victor Yap (NPC, Tarlac); Merceditas Cagas (NP, Davao del Sur); Estrellita Suansing (PDP-Laban, Nueva Ecija) and Toby Tiangco (Independent, Navotas).
In filing House Bill No. 935, Tiangco underscored the need to restore the age of exception from criminal liability and provide for specific rules in the prosecution of minors.
He pointed out that reports have indicated that “many crimes were committed” by children below 15 years old but these were left “unprosecuted because the accused involved is free from criminal liabilities.”
According to Leachon, approval of the bill is in line with the Duterte administration’s efforts to curb violence and crime as “important catalyst to economic growth, enhancement of family values and national development.”
“The current Congress gives utmost importance to legislative measures that ensure the safety of our future generation,” the senior administration lawmaker stressed. (Ben R. Rosario)